My Vietnam Adventure Begins in Saigon

This is my first blog posting that I’m attempting from my mobile phone. I’ve been having issues with my hands lately so I am using voice recognition, which is very cool. Unfortunately it’s different than writing, but it’s fine for the purposes of my blog.

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Sometimes it’s nice to not have to figure out how to get to your hotel on arrival.

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If I had forgotten Vietnam was a communist country I would’ve been reminded as I wandered down the streets by my hotel. This would’ve been hard to forget though, seeing as the arrival procedure with the visa process took more than 90 minutes and was quite far from streamlined.


The image above is a short clip of a New Years festival I stumbled upon my first day in Saigon. Click on the image to view the video.

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Most of the shops, restaurants, and services in my neighbourhood were closed for the week for New Years. (Vietnam New Near same as Chinese New Year.) I was happy to find this little shop to get my mobile phone operating!


Click on the video above to witness, as I did, all the closed businesses in the district as I explored on this Saturday, my first day in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh.

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This little street-side cafe I passed. In fact, the next day I ended-up eating there, it was all I could find open on Sunday and it was actually fine.

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The BBQ for the food stall was more than 10m away from the actual stall.

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Some pics in a lovely flower-themed park celebrating New Year.

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Along with many locals, I do need to use a mask here and there when wandering around this large city congested with heavy traffic. But, armed with my masks I will stay well!

(I finished this posting on my ipad, my phone app died and never came back, and it doesn’t post videos. Better luck to me next time!)

Stay tuned for more in Ho Chi Minh city, and lots of missing postings from the Philippines in upcoming weeks.

Cheers!

Darren

Why 2015 Is Going To Be Great!

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I left Canada on Jan 6th and here is a pic of my gratitude notes with me today from 2015. (Refer to my previous post if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) I’m using a stack of origami paper rather than a tear-off notepad at the moment.

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I’m still in Acworth, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, preparing for my soon departure for Manila, Philippines. I don’t really consider this travel, as I am visiting with long-time friends who I know well and the purpose of my visit was to spend time with them, it’s like being with family. So this is another non-travel posting.

Before I move on, I want to add another gratitude practice that my friends here do every single night with their two daughters. Last thing before bed, the family sits in the living room with their pajamas on and teeth brushed. After their daily prayer, they then go around the room and give account of what they are thankful for that day. It is a beautiful practice and a wonderfully positive way to end each day. The process of making yourself think about what you are grateful for during the day calls to remembrance that you have things to be grateful for. It also reinforces those happy memories rather than replaying the negative memories, a wonderful thing to do right before bed.

This practice differs from keeping gratitude notes, in that with the notes you will generally want to write down novel situations whereas at the end of the day, you might be most grateful for many of the same things every night. (Grateful for loving family, grateful to be able to eat healthy food, grateful to live in a free country, grateful for your loving friends, grateful for your employment . . . ) It’s good not to take for granted the amazing things we enjoy in life.

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More non-travel pics for this posting. I first started painting as a hobby in Matsuyama, Japan, which is also where I met my friends in here near Atlanta. Previous to that my main hobbies had been signing and acting. I also took a Japanese flower-arranging class at the same time, so my arrangements provided subjects for my first paintings. These first paintings were drawn with ink and then painted. This is around 1999.
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Why 2015 Is Going To Be Great!

This is another exercise I came upon recently, that I think is pretty great.

You’ve probably noticed that I have made no mention of “New Year Resolutions” in my New Year postings. The change of the calendar can be a good time to reflect on what is working for you and what is not – what is moving you towards the life you want and what is not. In that practice, making mental stock and writing down what you want to change is a great idea. Just don’t wait for the new year to start changing your life/living the life you want to live. Start changing your life today and every day. Even if you love your life exactly as it is, it takes work to maintain healthy and happy relationships and to keep the love flowing. When you remain still, you slide backwards.

The following is another practice that can help you have more happy days in 2015.

The exercise I came upon was to start each day by deciding why your day is going to be a great day. Do this when you wake-up, thinking about what good is going to come from your day, rather than letting your mind wander into worrying or fretting about what could go wrong or what you are dreading. Focus on the positive rather than the negative, and make more of what you want happen rather than more of what you don’t want. (You get more of what you focus on.)

That is the entire exercise. But I decided it can go further. Anyway, let’s start there.

Complete this sentence every day:

Today is going to be a great day because _____________________________________________.

This simple activity will help start your focus on the positive. We can dwell on all sorts of reasons why it’s not going to be a great day – it’s really cold, I have to work, it’s Monday, it’s garbage day, I have to do the shopping today – but that is only a good idea if you want to have an unhappy day.

How much better to focus on why your day is going to be great? Because my family is healthy, because I have a job to afford my life, because I have a car to be able to get to the store, because I can afford groceries, because I live in a warm home and have a warm coat and even though it’s cold I am not freezing myself. Because I have plenty my household has created rubbish, and it won’t just sit there rotting either, there is a collection service – I don’t even have to transport it away, I just have to take it to the curb!

Mine today: This is going to be a great day because I will enjoy another day with my friends near Atlanta, I will talk to my boyfriend on the phone, I will be able to get to the gym and work towards my fitness goals, and I’ll enjoy a nice dinner with friends and their family who are coming over tonight.

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Another of my earliest paintings from 1999, of a Japanese-syle flower arrangement (called Ikebana).
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Here is where I have extended the exercise to be more global.

Complete this sentence:

This week is going to be a great week because ________________________________________.

Many of us fret and worry that our week is going to hold all sorts of hardship. How much better is it to face our challenges knowing that in fact during the week, hundreds of little things are all going right. Your car will probably not break down, your dishwasher will probably clean dishes well enough to save you some effort, you will probably be able to do your laundry in a machine that makes that easier . . . if you have a loving partner even with ups and downs you are not alone . . . or because you are single you can enjoy the freedom that brings you whether or not you are looking for a partner. . . . because you love your children . . . , because you’re moving towards a goal you have set . . .

Mine this week:This is going to be a great week because on Monday I’ll be able to talk to my family by phone, I will enjoy a final night with friends here before on Tuesday I depart for the Philippines where I’ll be starting another great adventure!

Believe it or not, I could fret over the 37 hours of travel ahead of me. I could worry about arriving in Manila after flights to Chicago and Tokyo. I could fret that my accommodation might be less than I hoped, that I might get lost, that it might be too hot without air conditioning, that I won’t be able to sleep from the 13 hour time difference, that I could get taken advantage of by a taxi driver who wants to cheat my fare or try to take me to “his friends hotel, the one you want is closed, sir”. But I choose to know that this week is going to be great. Things will go wrong, they always do, but in the end I know I will be alive and well.

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These paintings are not very clearly photographed because they are framed behind glass and hanging in my Dad’s house in New Brunswick.
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Complete this sentence:

This is going to be a great month because: ________________________________________________.

Rather than focusing on that this is going to be a hard month because I miss my boyfriend so much and I wish he were with me and I’m worried about being lonely without him – I choose to be thankful that :

Mine this month: This is going to be a great month because I love and feel loved by my boyfriend even though he will be far away, and by my friends and family even though they are far away, and I’m thankful that we will be able to keep in touch with the internet – how lucky are we to have the internet! And it’s going to be great because I’m going to meet lots of new people and make some new friends in Asia, have lots of new experiences, and create some great adventures to write about to further my goal towards having a publishable collection of stories.

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This painting took me a week to complete all the details, it was not one I could feasibly sell at the price-point I was able to charge as a mostly unknown artist. Listed at $800 (a bargain considering that time effort in Toronto) it never sold from multiple shows including the One of A Kind Show. The original hangs in my mother’s home in New Brunswick. I ended-up making paintings that took much less time so that I could afford to charge much less and still make a living, and in the end I was just painting products for sale and didn’t care about it any more. (Completely different experience for hobby artists who may not by trying to charge for their time as an income.)

I think you know what is coming. Why 2015 Is Going To Be Great!

2015 is going to be a great year because: _________________________________________________.

Now, hopefully we can all do more than a sentence. But think about what you most want to achieve in 2015 and believe that you can do that. Think about upcoming events and challenges and know that you can rise above them. Acknowledge that if a door closes for you, it means that you are supposed to find another door. Sometimes our path takes turns that we don’t expect and that we cannot see the immediate purpose of, but it is still our path.

Mine this year: 2015 is going to be a great year because I no longer suffer anxiety and depression and I am able to share love and kindness with friends and family better than ever before. Because I love and am loved by my family and friends. Because I am enjoying the freedom to travel and find stories to write about. Because I will take a great writing course in April and May that will improve my writing. Because I will enjoy travels with my boyfriend and create life-long memories with family during a family wedding in Tuscany this coming summer. Because I am able to pursue my health and fitness goals and feel great because of that. Mostly 2015 is going to be great because I have started it with the greatest love I have experienced in twenty years.

Now don’t just read it – do it!

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Thank You 2014!

Happy New Year!

I wanted to write a Thank You to 2014 as I now spend time in Cobb County with friends near Atlanta, Georgia, USA. If you don’t use the practice (often called the gratitude jar) I highly encourage you to. It’s simple and a great way to shift your focus to the positive.

Give yourself the gift of making the most of your happy moments!

-Carry a note pad with tear-away sheets and keep your mind open to noticing things you should be grateful for. (Or keep it at home – somewhere you will notice every day.)
-When you notice something you are grateful for (or should be grateful for – you can practice this even when you’re not feeling it) write it down and fold the sheet to put your note into a jar. (Your gratitude jar. I put it in a gratitude ziplock bag myself because I’m always travelling.)
-At the end of the year, you can look at all the notes you collected, remembering the good and inspiring times you had throughout the year. Focusing on the love you felt, the joy you experienced, and the challenges you rose above will lead to more of the same in the coming year.
Keep your notes of gratitude, compile a list, make a collage, or just file them away with your memorabilia to refer to again. (I have not done mine yet and I don’t have my 2014 gratitude notes with me.)
-The focus of looking for things to be grateful for will help improve your focus to look for the positive and will increase your overall happiness and well-being.

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A close-up of a painting from my “Dancing with Flowers” collection, from when I was an artist.

What are you thankful for from 2014?

Why not take a few moments to think about that. Jot a few things down.

I am grateful that I was able to have a reunion tour in the winter of 2014. On a road trip down the Eastern seaboard I reconnected with dear friends from my past, many whom I had not seen for a decade or more. I am also learning to reconnect more meaningfully with new people I meet.

I am thankful that I was able to spend time with family.

I am grateful that I was able to devote time to writing.

I am thankful that I was able to join groups that felt purposeful, and met people I felt I was meant to meet. And that one thing led to another, one person led to another. With forward motion came more forward motion.

I am grateful that I had more love in my life by the end of 2014 than I had at the beginning.

I am thankful I met a number of people who have become special to me during 2014. One in particular who will likely be a central figure in my life.

I am grateful for my loving friends and family.

I am thankful to be alive and well.

Stay tuned for my next new year posting – “Why 2015 Is Going To Be Great!”

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